Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday 12 January 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Papering Duel

Game: Papering Duel

Publisher: Mandoo Games

Designer: Martin Nedergaard Andersen

Year: 2018

Mandoo Games are a new publisher on our radar. Mandoo are a Korean publisher who publish original titles, as well as localisations in Korea. In Europe, it looks like the best place to find their games it at Nice Game Shop, whilst in other regions you might have to look a little harder.

Papering Duel is a two player abstract game in which you and your room-mate are arguing over how to wallpaper a room in your apartment. The rulebook goes to some length in explaining this very obscure theme, but ultimately this is an abstract game of laying tiles and trying to get three instances of three in a row - much like tic-tac-toe. However, every turn your opponent wants to destroy all of your hard work by covering up your wallpaper designs!


At the start of a game of Papering Duel each player receives 3 cards of their type (either diagonals or straights) and they each take turns placing them on the 3x3 playing grid. Each card is a 2x2 see-through card with 2 squares blocked in with both a colour and a pattern. This way when you place a card 2 spaces of the grid are now covered up, while everything else is exactly how it was before.

After this initial setup players will take turns playing cards from their hand aiming to get 3 in a row of either colour or design. You can play as many cards as you want in your turn, but you only draw 1 card for each pattern you created. After playing your cards you place out markers representing which patterns you made, if you didn't make any then you have lost the game. You opponent then takes their turn in the same way, with at the end of their turn if any of your patterns are still on the board then they have lost the game to you, but if they broke all of your patterns *and* created a new one then play continues. The game can also end in a win if one player creates 3 different patterns in 1 round.

As one player only has access to cards with diagonal placements, while the other only has straight lines each player will find different patterns easier or harder to make and break while still achieving at least one patter in a turn. As such the game can end either with a triumphant bang as you complete your third pattern, or a endurance race of each player doing everything they can to stay in the game, but gradually losing cards and therefore ability to survive.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Papering Duel takes a classic (and solved) game and gives it a fresh paint job... or should that be a fresh wallpaper? Limiting each player to a set shape creates an immediate imbalance in your abilities, while not actually favouring either side. Some moves are easier to do with diagonals than straights, but for each one of those the opposite is true too. The fact that you can see the other player's hand openly means that there is a whole range of play available. A clever player might know not to make an otherwise good move as it will allow their opponent to reach 3 patterns. But even if you don't want to spy on your opponents hands simple knowing they are playing straights means that you can deliberately space your patterns out so they have to use 2 cards on their turn to stay in the game.

The range of victory and loss conditions can mean that games can suddenly turn around in someone's favour, but can also mean that losing is an inevitability. There can be an element of getting "checkmate" on your opponent, particularly if they start losing cards. Fortunately with games only being 5-10 minutes (we found they got longer as we got better) you are never so invested that this gets you down.

Papering Duel is a great 2-player abstract game which I think will be a huge hit with the casual player. It is approachable as it takes themes from a classic game, but updates them and gives a high-quality production that's sure to impress. Papering Duel is certainly a filler game and I wouldn't pack it as my only game when going on a trip, but instead it finds it's place as a quick game to pass the time whether you are on a train or waiting for the rest of your game group to finish their game!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Papering Duel has really made an impression on me over multiple plays. A couple of our early games seemed to end quite fast, but as we got better, the games because tighter and more interesting, and we saw a range of the end game victory/loss conditions. There's a lot of tactics that can be implemented based on the open information of your opponent's hand and that allows you to set little traps, hoping to whittle down their hand size and ultimately win. Perhaps there will always be a bit of luck of the draw when you draw new tiles, but my feeling during most games is that I'm truly out-witting or being out-witted.

We often find that 2-player abstract strategy games are a negative experience for us due us both having very different ability levels at games like chess or its modern implementations like Onitama and Santorini. However, Papering Duel keeps the puzzle factor, but removes the need to have so much forward thinking and movement planning. It's a very clean puzzle that only seems to demand that you plan ahead as far as your opponent's next turn. I'm sure that you could choose to plan a little further, but for a 5-10 minute game, we haven't been that invested!

If you're looking for a fast and competitive 2-player game that doesn't burn your brain, but does give you the feeling of being smart and solving a puzzle, then I suggest checking out Papering Duel.

You Might Like...
  • The game has great component quality.
  • The open information creates a really intense competitive puzzle.
  • The game has a wonderfully simple but well implemented variant on a tic-tac-toe style mechanism.
You Might Not Like...
  • The rulebook is a little unclear in places, but we eventually found our way (we think!).
  • The game can quite quickly spiral in one player's favour, if one player loses a card.

The Verdict
7/10 Papering Duel is a really fun tug of war for two players. The component quality is fantastic and the transparent cards are a really simple design idea that makes for a great little puzzle. It's a super fast game that we can pull off the shelves, even if we have only 10 minutes to spare.

Papering Duel was a review copy kindly provided to us by Mandoo Games.

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